published Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Chism plays through pain

by Wes Rucker

KNOXVILLE -- Wayne Chism often finds interesting ways to say things.

Not surprisingly, the senior forward found a funny way to state his intentions of playing through a mysterious knee injury that Tennessee's medical staff hasn't diagnosed.

"I've fought through a lot of injuries, so I'll just take this one, throw it in the back of the truck and keep rolling," the West Tennessee native after Friday night's practice.

Chism's knee bent awkwardly enough in last Saturday's loss at Georgia that coaches and teammates initially feared the worst.

"I just kind of held my breath and started praying," sophomore wing Renaldo Woolridge said. "We need Wayne."

Chism's knee stayed in socket and tight enough to return to the game moments later, but he hasn't been the same since. He scored just six points at Georgia and just eight in Wednesday's loss to Vanderbilt on a combined 5-for-19 shooting -- and 0-for-5 from 3-point range.

Wayne wasn't Wayne

The lack of lift also hampered Chism defensively on several occasions, but the savvy senior boxed out and positioned himself for a season-high 16 rebounds against the Commodores.

"I just have to get better position on the inside," Chism said. "And with my jumper, I just missed them. I can't blame that on my knee or anything like that. I can just say I'm going to bounce back and be ready to play against Florida."

The 14th-ranked Vols (15-4, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) sorely need their big leader in Sunday's crucial league matchup with surging Florida (15-5, 4-2).

"Obviously, we're better with Wayne than without Wayne," senior wing J.P. Prince said. "The good thing is he'll be out there against Florida, and he'll give us everything he's got."

Chism said he actually feels "kind of blessed" to still be on the floor after feeling his knee bend the wrong way.

"I had never done that to my leg before," he said. "The way I fell back on it, I probably never should have gotten back in the game, but I'm just a competitive person. I just play through injuries and don't say anything about them. I tried my best and continued to play.

"There's a lot of way you can hurt a kneecap, and a lot of things you can say about injuries, but I just can't really say what's wrong with it. But I'm fighting through it, and I'm still playing the game that I love."

UT coach Bruce Pearl praised Chism's "courage" for playing (and practicing nearly every day) on the knee, and he added that the trainers' inability to discover a structural problems leaves him optimistic that Chism will be "back to normal pretty soon."

Chism said the setback hasn't given him fear of playing his physical style.

"I'm just going to keep going with the flow," he said. "I can't let my knee stop me from playing. I just love playing basketball. If I twist an ankle, I'm just going to keep going on that, too. I've played with a broken thumb.

"There's been a lot of things I've done played through, so this is really not bothering me."

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